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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Healthy lunch at the office: It is possible

In today's fast-paced environment it often seems impossible to sit down
and enjoy a good lunch. A busy day at the office means most Canadians either eat at their desk or grab some fat-laden fast food.
 So what's the solution?
 The Dietitians of Canada suggest planning ahead and setting realistic goals.
 "The major problem is taking time to get away from your desk, sometimes it is just not possible," says Susan Mah, a registered dietitian in Toronto. "The best solution is to bring the food to you so that even if you can't leave you know you always have something healthy on hand."
 Mah offers these tips for making it easier to lunch well at work:
 - Stock your desk with non-perishables such as fruit cups, dry cereal, crackers, peanut butter, canned soup, and dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
 - Keep some utensils, napkins and a can opener at your desk.
 - If you have access to a fridge, keep it stocked with yogurt, fruit, sliced meat and hard-boiled eggs. Be sure to label your food and date it.
 - If you do have to have fast-food one day, choose small portions and look for grilled or broiled sandwiches instead of the deep fried ones. Load up on the vegetable toppings and skip dessert.
 - Frozen entrees can be convenient, but portions might be small. Round out the meal with extra vegetables and whole grain bread. Have fruit or yogurt for dessert.
 Obviously it is better not to eat at your desk, but Mah stresses that whatever the circumstances, always find a way to eat. "Ideally, go out for walk, get air, relax, but if not - bring the food to you," she said.
 Planning ahead
 If you do plan to keep good, healthy food on hand, then it will take some organizing.
 According to Mah 50 percent of Canadians don't consider their meals until the last minute.
 Instead of wandering aimlessly around the grocery store, Mah suggests you make a grocery list and organize it so that it follows the layout of the store. That way you can shop quickly and efficiently and still end up with all the items you'll need to make sure you always have ingredients for lunch.
 Other tips include:
 - Always have a good stock of basic pantry foods such as pasta, rice, eggs, milk, cheese and frozen vegetables.
 - On the weekend make large batches of soup, muffins or banana bread that will last you for the week.
 - Cook extra noodles or rice when you make dinner, then use the left overs to make a fast lunch.
 - Precut vegetables such as broccoli and baby carrots are handy. They are more expensive, but worth it if it means you'll get your daily serving of veggies.
 If you do break the habit of having nothing but mustard in your fridge, here are some quick and tasty lunch ideas, that can be made ahead of time and taken to the office:
 - Clean and cut up raw veggies and pack them in containers or plastic bags so that they are ready to eat.
 - Next time you reach for your usual coffee, tea or soft drink, try milk or juice instead.
 - Hard boil extra eggs for quick egg salad sandwiches, to chop and put in a salad or to eat as is.
 - Pull together a quick meal-in-one salad. Start with lettuce or other greens, add small cubes of cheese, chopped cooked egg, chick peas, canned tuna or salmon.
 - Canned bean or pea soup make a healthy lunch. Enjoy with a whole wheat bun.
 - Pack a pita with whatever strikes your fancy. Be adventurous and try something new!
 - Toast a cheese English muffin and add a slice of cheese and a slice of tomato.
 As National Nutrition Month moves forward the message remains that it is possible, with minimal planning, to eat well both at home and work.

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